What if one of our volunteers discriminates against one of our service users?

Discrimination in the provision of goods and services is unlawful under Part 4 of the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic). In some circumstances the Wrongs Act 1958 (Vic) will be relevant here as well. This Act provides that an incorporated community organisation may be held responsible rather than the volunteer for things done in good faith when undertaking community work. This protection will not apply when the actions are not in good faith or when they were contrary to instructions given by the community organisation.

If a volunteer discriminates against a service user, the organisation could be responsible where the volunteer was acting as their agent or where the organisation’s conduct could be taken to have authorised or assisted the discrimination. The volunteer could also be personally liable for discriminating in the provision of goods and services.

The best thing for an organisation to do is to provide clear guidance on what volunteers are authorised to do, for example, by providing a role or position description, and to make clear its expectations that sexual harassment is not acceptable.

If you need more information, please contact the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.
Enquiry Line: 1300 292 153
Telephone: 1300 891 848
Fax: 1300 891 858
TTY: 1300 289 621
Email: enquiries@veohrc.vic.gov.au

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